Tuesday, 19 June 2018

The Biba Bed-Sitting Room | 19 Magazine (1970)


How many of you have bothered to do anything to your rooms since you moved into them months and months ago? Are you still living in a shamefully untidy bed-sitter, and do you still get that 'How I wish I had a cheerful, bright room' feeling every time you come home from work? Have you, for weeks now, been meaning to get down on your hands and knees to scrub and scrape? Has your boyfriend repeatedly offered to help wallpaper the ceiling and bang the nails in? We asked Barbara Hulanicki of Biba to design a fairly inexpensive bed-sitter for 19. Incorporating a few original ideas that were not unduly complicated to carry out. She chose Pontings, which has a good whitewood department—the result is rather stunning. You can see the 19 Biba and Pontings bed-sitter on display, from the 19th September, in the window of Pontings, next door to the High Street Kensington tube station. All merchandise can be got from Biba (opposite Pontings) at 124 High Street Kensington, London W8.


ABOVE: Cream satin pyjamas, from Biba, approx. 10gns., matching cap, £4 10s. Upright desk, from Pontings, £6 7s. 6d. painted with one top coat of Biba cream Flat Oil paint, and trimmed with wallpaper border; dressing-table stool, from Pontings, 28s. 9d., decorated to match. Tissue box has been covered in matching Biba wallpaper (with Polycell) at 1s. 2d. per sheet.


ABOVE: Long cream satin nightdress with frilled neckline and tie waist, from Biba, approx 10gns. Single whitewood hardtop divan with two storage drawers, 36ins. wide, from Pontings, £18 4s. Cream lace bedspread, single 7gns., double £9 10s.; and cream satin cushions, small 19s. 6d., large 29s. 6d. All from Biba. Belling Champion convector heaters, from Pontings, £7 19s., painted with two coats of Biba cream Emulsion (turn the heater up to warm it―turn off―then apply paint) and one coat of Biba cream Flat Oil paint. Cream lace at the window, tacked on to give a blind effect and soft light in the room, available from Biba, 15s 6d. per yard. Cream satin lamp, from Biba, 8gns. Whitewood bedside table, 24ins. high, £5 16s.; desk with compartments and shelves (used here as a dressing-table) 39ins.high, 28s. 9d.; blanket box, £6 17s. All from Pontings. The furniture is painted with one top coat of Biba cream Flat Oil paint, then trimmed with chocolate and cream Biba wallpaper. Emulsion paint, 15s. per quart; Flat Oil paint, 9s. 3d. per pint; wallpaper is 1s. 2d. per sheet. All from Biba.


ABOVE: Model wears an ox-blood satin nightdress with lace-up front, from Biba, approx 10gns., with matching scarf tied as a turban, 42s., and choker, 10s. 6d. Biba chocolate brown and cream wallpaper covering walls, ceiling and panels of the bedroom door. The floor has been covered in felt, from Biba, 55s. 6d. per square yard. Cream bedside rug, from Pontings, 5gns. Wall bookshelf (also available with doors, 11s. per pair), from Pontings, 62s. Chest of drawers (five drawers of different depths), 34ins high £13 11s. 6d., valet stand used as a towel rail, 59s 6d. All from Pontings and all painted with Biba Flat Oil paint. Open storage cupboard covered by bedspread, from Biba, 7gns., and lined with wallpaper.



All you need is a little imagination to change completely the look of a room. Here, along with Biba, we transformed a bed-sitting room and chose a chocolate/cream colour scheme. After the necessary preparations (see below) we gave the furniture a top coat of Biba cream Flat Oil Paint and hung paper on the walls and ceiling and—for continuity used wallpaper borders, applied with Polycell, as a decorative trim, inside the window, bookshelf, stool, desk, blanket trunk, dressing-table and chest of drawers. The wallpaper was also applied to cover the open wardrobe (see picture 3), door-panels and necessary extras. Biba lace cushions and lampshades come in a variety of colours. The following instructions from the furniture manufacturer produce a really professional finish.



Three years later, upon moving to the much larger Derry & Toms building at 99-119 Kensington High Street—twenty times the size of its predecessor, Barbara Hulanicki finally had enough room to expand the lifestyle goods section into a fully fledged Household Department located on the fourth floor of the new premises. It was stocked with Biba furniture, rugs, art deco mirrors, lampshades, fabric, tableware and kitchenware, wallpaper, paint, and much more, along with twenty-four individually themed Biba room sets designed to display the products as they would look best in a variety of domestic settings, to inspire customers with ideas on how to transform their own living space. The opening day Big Biba newspaper, art directed by Steven Thomas and beautifully illustrated by Kasia Charko which had been created to familiarise shoppers with the new store's layout, devoted an entire page to it, the first line of the introduction copy declared that ''This is where houses start becoming homes.''  

The Biba Household Department illustrated by Kasia Charko for the opening day newspaper, September 10th, 1973.  A total print run of 300,000 copies were produced on newsprint, with a further 1000 limited edition produced on cream cartridge paper.


The Biba Household Department logo, art directed by Steven Thomas, illustrated by Kasia Charko (1973).    



Some examples of the twenty-four themed Household room-sets, permanently on display at Big Biba 99-119 Kensington High Street, each decorated and stocked with products from the store.                          

   Biba Room-Set, 1973.

    Biba Room-Set, 1973.

    Biba Kitsch Room-Set. 1973.

All Biba bed-sitting room images scanned by Sweet Jane from an original article by Fiona Bird for 19 Magazine, October 1970. Photographer and model uncredited. Big Biba Opening Newspaper Household Department page 13, Household logo, and Room-Sets scanned from Welcome to Big Biba by Steven Thomas and Alwyn W. Turner. Discover more about Barbara Hulanicki and view some fantastic behind the scenes footage of Biba 124 Kensington High Street filmed around the same period that this 19 Magazine feature was originally published. More boutiques business from Biba 124-126 Kensington High Street (1970); The Maxi-Look from Biba (1970); and Biba's American Debut (1971). An earlier bed-sitting room make-over, this time courtesy of Celia Birtwell, Ossie Clark and Molly Parkin—Bedsitter Girl - Jane Asher in Nova (1966). Tips on Cooking in a Bedsitter by Katharine Whitehorn (1963). A detailed history of Ponting Brothers Ltd—John Barker’s Magnificent Department Stores On Kensington High Street. And Finally, the Barbara Hulanicki designed range of wallpapers currently available from Graham & Brown, and her current paint range, which includes shades of  Witchcraft, Fetish, and Earth.